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Class structure June 27, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett takes a looks in the Guardian at the preponderance of Oxbridge graduates in British public, media, judicial and business life:

Why the continued respect where there should be scorn and suspicion for those who buy themselves advantages in life and then coast through, seemingly answerable to no one?
Well, I don’t respect it. I’m polite about it, as you can’t blame an individual child for the circumstances of his or her birth whether rich or poor, but I won’t pretend I think any of those privately educated people who dominate Britain are better than you or me (because the chances are you went to state school, too. Most of us did, after all). I’m always going to be more impressed by a kid from a council estate and a struggling comprehensive who gets four As at A-level than I am by someone with the same grades who has been spoon-fed Latin their whole education before being shepherded to repeated Oxbridge interview roleplay sessions.
The question is: why aren’t Oxbridge interviewers impressed by this? Oxford and Cambridge are improving their intake, but progress is slow, and despite the laughable fears of some independent schools that their pupils are being discriminated against, not enough is being done. In 2018 the Sutton Trust accused Oxford and Cambridge of being so socially exclusive that they recruited more students from eight top schools than almost 3,000 other UK state schools put together. That’s simply unjustifiable. Furthermore, it’s a plucky state school child that would stride willingly and confidently into such an environment.

That question she asks, ‘why aren’t Oxbridge interviewers impressed by this’ has so obvious an answer that I’m presuming it is entirely rhetorical… This is how a class system which reifies those from the supposed upper classes functions. It offers a slightly opaque, often seemingly intangible, but very real social safety net and network for and from within those class(es) throughout their lives. The contacts established, the understanding of their privilege, the unwillingness to share or extend that privilege is the very definition of upper class.

Of course, as she notes, those from those classes aren’t ‘bad people’ as individuals but they carry with them assumptions, and privilege, which as it were displaces those who do not have access to the same resources. And there are other aspects to this – a deference to those who have that privilege, and as evidenced by the comments, a remarkable wish to explain away these phenomena as somehow ‘natural’ and ‘inevitable’.

One key way to engage with this is to recognise the reality of this and to seek to dilute that privilege.

Comments»

1. Dermot M O Connor - June 27, 2019

Regarding them not being bad people – when Owen Jones wrote about this a few months ago…

View at Medium.com

…their reaction suggested that many of them are bad people – more interested in looking after their selfish class interest and privileges than any form of justice.

http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.com/2018/04/owen-jones-vs-british-media.html

For saying the obvious about the press pack, Owen has been subject to a full spectrum pile-on by some of the best known politics commentators in the land. Amusingly, they spent the best part of the weekend proving his point for him. How very thoughtful. Why then has Owen’s critique, known to everyone who’s done a bit of sociology and media studies, driven them into apoplexy?

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WorldbyStorm - June 27, 2019

Surely – some are very bad peoples who’ll defend what they’ve got to the end

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EWI - June 27, 2019

…their reaction suggested that many of them are bad people – more interested in looking after their selfish class interest and privileges than any form of justice.

Same thing goes on with the tight little clique that is the Dublin media. Their pile-ons of contrary voices like Colm Dore is revealing.

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2. Dermot M O Connor - June 28, 2019

Funny exchange in the Owen Jones spat when he accused them of groupthink – the reply: “Nobody tells me what to think”. Counter-reply: “That’s the whole point of groupthink, you all think the same thing so nobody even has to”.

The groupthinkers of D4 and London have never stumbled over Ellul it appears.

http://www.swaraj.org/shikshantar/propaganda.htm

it is only normal that the most educated people (intellectuals) are the first to be reached by such propaganda… All this runs counter to pat notions that only the public swallows propaganda. Naturally, the educated man does not believe in propaganda; he shrugs and is convinced that propaganda has no effect on him. This is, in fact, one of his great weaknesses, and propagandists are well aware that in order to reach someone, one must first convince him that propaganda is ineffectual and not very clever. Because he is convinced of his own superiority, the intellectual is much more vulnerable than anybody else to this maneuver…

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3. Jim Monaghan - June 28, 2019

” I’m always going to be more impressed by a kid from a council estate and a struggling comprehensive who gets four As at A-level than I am by someone with the same grades who has been spoon-fed Latin their whole education before being shepherded to repeated Oxbridge interview roleplay sessions.”. And some want to bring in continuous assessment and interviews here for university entry. The Leaving Cert is blind to most stuff.

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Dermot M O Connor - June 28, 2019

Indeed.

and as for interviews, ugh; they’re a part of the US admission process, and IMHO are just another mechanism that allows gatekeeping of the worst kind.

No way will TPTB allow stroppy proles in the door if they have a say in it, and an interview is a great way to keep such a filter. They can sell it with some meritocratic buncombe, but we all know what’ll happen when the interviewers are Oxbridge types talking to proles from a council estate.

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Lamentreat - June 28, 2019

Interviews are very much a kind of gatekeeping, but generally US colleges don’t use them, it would be too time consuming for all concerned. Applicants supply dossiers of materials which serve the same purpose of elite reproduction.

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WorldbyStorm - June 28, 2019

I’ve been on interview panels for 3rd level – generally fair enough though definitely agree some tilting towards a certain set of expectations but then it was a more ‘vocational’ area where people’s work or portfolio was key so some sort of hands on assessment was necessary but I can well believe those expectations in certain contexts would screw people over

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Dermot M O Connor - June 28, 2019

I had the likes of Harvard, Standford, etc. more in mind, the ivy league elites (which is where the gatekeeping really matters in maintaining status quo), and not in Indiana State University or whatnot.

I’m surprised there’s any of Gawker still online, but FYI:

https://gawker.com/ivy-league-admissions-are-a-sham-confessions-of-a-harv-1690402410

What is it that I have looked for in prospective students, you may ask? Well, as the Harvard Interviewer Handbook rather sniffily puts it, “part of the general public believes ‘best’ ought to be defined by standardized tests, grades, and class rank.” The admissions committee, however, “holds a more expansive view of excellence,” and uses us to help discern excellence in forms that might not be so apparent on paper.

Thus spake Spengler’s ‘Senile Elite’, if ever there was one.

GF recently listened to a ‘This American Life’ ep. about an Ivy League student who was given (as is their right) the interview notes that lead to their admission. Word search to the passage where they talk about asian “tiger” mothers.

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/663/transcript

Also, note that the interviewer spent a LOT of time with this kid. It’s a huge investment of time / energy to keep this grotty empire in the style to which it has become accustomed.

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Lamentreat - June 28, 2019

Cheers for the links Dermot, v interesting stuff, I was clearly wrong in thinking interviews weren’t central over there.

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tafkaGW - June 28, 2019

The leaving cert isn’t blind to the ability to pay for endless amounts of grinds to get the cream (rich and thick) to where they feel they should be.

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4. roddy - June 28, 2019

When I was at school,a pupil caused a sensation by gaining admission to Cambridge due to his outstanding A level results.After graduation ,he returned home and as was par for the course for a catholic in the 70s ,he had difficulty gaining relevant employment.He took a job as a coal man and when asked by a former teacher why he was so employed,he quipped- “Paddy X will have nobody about the place only Oxbridge graduates”!

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5. tafkaGW - June 28, 2019

Doesn’t TCD perform the same role in the RoI’s small pond as Oxbridge in the UK? Discuss.

There’s a lot that’s wrong with German higher education but at least you don’t have the pools of privilege centred around who you went to uni with.

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EWI - June 29, 2019

Doesn’t TCD perform the same role in the RoI’s small pond as Oxbridge in the UK? Discuss.

Yes, I can think of one particular field where they have repeatedly disgraced themselves through bad academic behaviour (with honorable exceptions) yet somehow still have purchase as the gold standard.

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EWI - June 29, 2019

‘Irish historian Roy Foster may have explained one reason for Protestants living longer than Catholics when he wrote in a recent book that Irish Protestants were “experts at keeping themselves warm in cold houses”.’

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/irish-protestants-live-longer-than-catholics-new-research-shows-1.3940784

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Bartholomew - June 29, 2019

That’s a bizarre article. Wasn’t Foster being metaphorical, as in the phrase ‘a cold house for Protestants/Catholics’?

And look at the last section: ‘the research found that people living in affluent areas tended to live longer’. Would that account for at least some of the difference between denominations?

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